Belgian breakout Remco Evenepoel isn’t shying away from the hype on his 20-year-old shoulders.
The Deceuninck-Quick-Step star is getting the wheels turning again on his sophomore season at this week’s Vuelta a Burgos as he begins the slow build toward his debut grand tour, the October Giro d’Italia.
“It’s a big honor that a multiple grand tour winner like him said I’m one of the main targets in that race,” Evenepoel said Monday. “It’s a big honor and it only gives me motivation if someone like him tells that to the media. He’s not going to lie. He’s a guy with a lot of years of experience so if he said it, it can be true.”
Evenepoel will line up in Sicily this October against a field of experienced climbers including Nibali, defending champion Richard Carapaz, Jakob Fuglsang, and Simon Yates.
Though relatively unproven on the high-altitude monster climbs of the Italian Alps, Evenepoel holds an ace up his sleeve. With over 65 kilometers of time trialing in the Italian race, his chops against the clock could be the key to unlocking his GC foes.
“As it is my first grand tour I would not classify myself as a favorite, but maybe an outsider,” Evenepoel said. “It is my first grand tour so we cannot say how I will feel after two weeks of racing.
“I need to take the time trials as focusing points and we never know in the mountains, if I feel good or if I put in a small attack to gain some time. The most important is to not drop in the climbs and to try to make the difference in the time trials.”
Having never raced over three weeks, Evenepoel knows he will be in unknown territory at the Giro. However, he’s bristling at the opportunity to take on the likes of Nibali and Carapaz in what looks set to be an old-school, attritional race packed with high mountains and marathon stages.
“The Giro is the highest level. You cannot always ride against a lower field of GC guys – I not afraid of it,” he said. “I’m happy I can race against those superstars.”
And will he have lived up to the hype by the time the race closes in Milan? Nothing is out of the question. As Evenepoel said himself, “We can only talk after October 26.”